TRAI launches consultation on street furniture usage for 5G

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India’s telecom regulator TRAI said that the dense deployment of small cells and fiber is critical for mass availability of 5G services, and to that end has invited comments from the industry on use of street furniture for small cell and aerial fiber deployment.

Street furniture like utility poles, billboards, lamp posts, traffic signals, and public structures like gazebos and bus stops can be utilized to mount small cells and aerial fiber, the regulator said in a statement Wednesday as it floated a consultation paper [PDF] to seek input from stakeholders on the issue.

In India, street furniture falls under various public and private authorities that have administrative jurisdictions in municipal bodies, smart city administrations, government departments, railways, airports, ports and metro train systems and stadiums.

“Granting access to street furniture by these controlling authorities could remove a significant hurdle in 5G small cell deployment in the country,” TRAI said:

“5G deployed on infrastructure owned by these authorities creates a win-win situation where the authorities can benefit from 5G use cases like smart waste disposal, smart traffic light, smart metering, smart grid monitoring, disaster management, automation, energy management, resulting in new streams of revenue generation.”

Given that higher 5G frequency bands necessitate the deployment of small cells as part of network rollout plans at some point, TRAI added that the use of public street furniture would reduce the need for greenfield deployments of towers or poles for small cells and fiber, thus bringing down the capex and time involved for rolling out 5G networks and services.

In its consultation paper, TRAI has asked 17 questions on how to incentivize the use of the small cells and a broad framework for deploying them.

The paper asks stakeholders whether the existing rights of way (RoW) rules notified by the Department of Telecommunication (DoT) need to be changed. TRAI also asks whether it should be mandated that certain public infrastructure (municipality buildings, post offices, bus, and railway stations, etc.) be earmarked to have dedicated spaces that allow service providers to deploy macro/small cells.

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